Legal Business Blogs

International round-up: Squires enters Italy as NRF shuts Bahrain outpost

Squire Patton Boggs has entered the Italian legal market with a four-partner Milan base while Norton Rose Fulbright has become the latest to join a long series of office closures in the Middle East.

Squires said today (23 January) it has picked the Northern Italian city for its 45th office with a team from US rival Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle, led by Italy managing partner Galileo Pozzoli.

Partners Daniela Sabelli, Ian Tully and Fabrizio Vismara will also join Pozzoli in the new office, which will start operating in the coming weeks. The team focuses on energy law, transactions, cross-border disputes and international arbitration.

The move makes Squires the latest entrant in a jurisdiction that has historically proven difficult to crack for foreign counsel, with international firms struggling to build momentum amid an active lateral market where top rainmakers are not inclined to take orders from abroad.

Paul Hastings left the country after 14 years last October when Milan chair Bruno Cova quit the US firm for Studio Legale Delfino e Associati Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

Although firms including Latham & Watkins and Linklaters have managed to build relatively successful operations, they are not immune to senior departures either. In 2019 Latham lost well-regarded Milan banking partner Andrea Novarese to US rival White & Case while Linklaters saw corporate partner Giovanni Pedersoli return to the firm that carries his name after 12 years.

But the complexity of the market has not scared international firms away, with Greenberg Traurig announcing last May a merger with local ally Santa Maria Studio Legale.

Elsewhere, NRF confirmed today it had shut its Bahrain office at the end of last year, relocating its only local partner Joanne Emerson Taqi to Sydney. The Bahrain closure comes just two years after the firm left Abu Dhabi, leaving NRF with only two regional bases in Dubai and Riyadh.

NRF is part of a long list of international firms that have been retrenching in the Middle East lately, often after overinvesting during the oil boom in the 2000s.

Earlier this month Winston & Strawn concluded its five-year spell in the region by closing its Dubai base, with Squires recruiting the bulk of its ten-lawyer local team. Weil Gotshal & Manges also left the region altogether in February 2017, while firms including Simmons & Simmons, Latham & Watkins, Vinson & Elkins and Herbert Smith Freehills have closed their Abu Dhabi offices to focus on Dubai.